Good news for taxpayers
TAXPAYERS will not face having to pick up the tab for large pay rises for their councillors – because the authority is saving the cash instead.Suffolk Coastal's councillors have put on hold a 25 per cent rise in their allowances because of the financial restraints facing the council and decided instead to aim for greater efficiency and tighter budgets.
TAXPAYERS will not face having to pick up the tab for large pay rises for their councillors – because the authority is saving the cash instead.
Suffolk Coastal's councillors have put on hold a 25 per cent rise in their allowances because of the financial restraints facing the council and decided instead to aim for greater efficiency and tighter budgets.
The increase from £2,400 to £3,000 for a basic allowance would have meant councillors' pay had risen 2,100 per cent in just four years.
The rise – recommended after a detailed review, an independent panel – would have brought them in line with those paid by neighbouring and national councils.
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"The independent panel produced a very helpful and comprehensive report, the recommendations of which the full council accepted in principle," said council leader Ray Herring.
"However, the clear view of the meeting was not to implement the report with immediate effect, but that priority be given to our drive for increased efficiency and tighter budgets at a time when local government finances are under considerable pressure."
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The council agreed, in line with the panel's report, to pay an honorarium to the independent standards committee chairman, who not being a councillor is unable to claim any allowance, but for the moment the rest of their recommendations have been put on hold.
"Rather than approving a sizeable increase in allowances, we have opted for a rise in line with the latest national local government pay award," said Mr Herring.
"This means that the basic allowances and special responsibility allowances will rise by 3.5pc, bringing the basic allowance for a Suffolk Coastal councillor to £2,484.
"This continues to be one of the lowest allowance schemes in the region and well below neighbouring Ipswich currently paying £3,200 basic.
"The independent panel found strong and compelling reasons for recommending increasing the allowances to councillors, including the additional burdens of work and because we are well below the average paid to other similar councils. "However, at a time when we have been battling against external factors to keep potential council tax increases below 10pc following a very poor government grant settlement, it would be inappropriate and financially unjustifiable to push through large increases."
A study of Suffolk Coastal's councillors showed the average workload of "backbench" members was over 20pc higher than previously estimated, and the workload of cabinet members and group leaders in particular was also more than originally expected.
There has been a significant overall increase in workload following the introduction of the new cabinet-style council, and the current indications are that there will be even more demands on councillors in the future.